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Expanding vocabulary for 13 year old slow learners

(11 Posts)
worriedtwinmum Tue 26-Jul-11 23:00:07

My twins are 13 but poor readers (level 2a) and weak in other topics as well. School says there is no specific problem, they are just slow learners - and came from Africa at the age of 8 with very few experiences to draw on - I didn't know them before they came. Not a great combination. One challenge is lack of vocabulary, I make them read a lot, but they don't pick up words - if there is something they don't understand they just skip it and don't bother. They forget everything quickly when not relevant to their daily life. And interests are limited to sports. Unfortunately I don't have money to give them a lot of experiences (travel, seeing new things) that would create a need for words. My efforts to them look like a duty they would prefer to substitute for football....Any good ideas?

IndigoBell Wed 27-Jul-11 17:52:56

School says there is no specific problem, they are just slow learners !

Have school got any evidence to back this up? Have they been seen by an Ed Psych? How does school no there is no specific problem?

2a is the level of a 8 year old. They have been in this country 5 years.....

happygardening Wed 27-Jul-11 18:52:13

I agree with IndigoBell. It seems to me your twins need an Ed. Psych report. Schools can do an initial screening of slow readers for dyslexia for free although the test is not fool proof. Private ones are expensive at least £500. There must be a special needs dept at your childrens school ask to speak to the person in charge and tell her your worries, the school has an obligation to address their slow reading. It sounds to me that there making the fact they once lived in Africa an excuse for doing nothing but that was five years ago and in many countries children don't learn to read and write till 7 -8 but by now they would be much further ahead than your twins.

Kez100 Wed 27-Jul-11 19:04:55

If they have difficulty accessing books but not the language, then see if you are able to sign them up for listening books, the charity.

I have a bright, diagnosed dyslexic 13 year old, and he can read but cannot access books at the same speed a 13 year old boy would like too. He loves listening books and chooses allsorts!

freerangeeggs Wed 27-Jul-11 19:15:54

Kids don't learn very many new words from reading. They do learn some, and it depends on the child, but generally it's not the best way of boosting vocabulary.

I like to use puzzles and games to increase vocab - for example, I've made up bingo cards in the past (words on the cards, read out the meanings and kids have to match), as well as wordsearches, crosswords, matching games etc. ICT can be really useful here. Of course the children need to be introduced to the vocabulary first, and then have it reinforced/consolidated by the techniques I've listed. We usually link the words we're learning in with a particular text/topic - just generally 'increasing vocabulary' can be a daunting task and this helps to break it down.

I agree you should look into getting further advice.

happygardening Wed 27-Jul-11 19:20:40

Don't think I'm being rude but do you have an extensive vocabulary? Children basically repeat the words that they hear in everyday conversation. I've frequently heard/hear my children repeating words and phrases that we use. We talk to them alot about every conceivable topic even those that we're not interested in e.g. Dr Who! This is all free.

worriedtwinmum Wed 27-Jul-11 23:08:25

Thanks for the comments and advice, I will push the school again for additional assessments, I had given up after trying many times with no result. The school has given them extra literacy training four times a week with little result, and the view is that there are just people that are not very bright. And thanks for the other good ideas.

GnomeDePlume Thu 28-Jul-11 00:33:23

I think that happygardening makes sense. Broaden your own vocabulary in the subject of their choice whether that is football or Aristotle. Children mimic. The broader your vocabulary especially in a subject which interests them the broader their vocabulary becomes.

Explain without criticism. Use a new word and 'translate' at the same time. 'He's really exerting himself, really trying and stretching himself'. Through repetition in a context of their choice their vocabulary will naturally broaden. Just to help you, the season is commencing, starting.

IndigoBell Thu 28-Jul-11 09:24:38

Odds are they struggle with learning vocab for the same reason they struggle learning to read - an auditory memory problem.

An EP report won't magically fix anything, but it might give the school some more pointers with things that might help.

The chances of them not being able to learn to read properly because they're 'not very bright' is far less then the chances of them having a normal IQ, but some other problem which is hindering them. To not be bright enough to learn to read you have to have a staggering low IQ.

My DD struggled to learn to read, and has a very poor vocab. She still can't learn new words. And no amount of exposure to them will make them stick in her memory. But she's not stupid.

I do understand how wearying it is to keep battling school. And how easy it is for them to write your twins off, and how easy it is for you to believe the school.

Wish I had a magic wand. Memory problems are tough, really tough.

worriedtwinmum Sat 30-Jul-11 22:43:21

Freerice.com is good - the twins are level 1-3, I am level 28-29 (cause I'm Scandianvian and have only been here 6 years myself), but its good fun, and the twins take it seriously because it helps Africa - we counted 500 grains and agreed we should do that each of us every day, not enough to feed one child but at least to make one child feel better

Ilovegeorgeclooney Thu 04-Aug-11 10:19:07

I teach at a school with a lot of EAL pupils(42%) and nearly half are from Africa. We find a very effective way to improve literacy is to read along to a CD of the book being read by actor. Libraries often have these CD's and more than 1 copy of the book, you might have to book them in advance. Beverley Naidoo might be a start, 'The Other Side of Truth' and 'Journey to Jo'burg' are both very popular with our pupils. If you want to move away from African issues Artemus Fowl is a winner with virtually every boy I have ever taught ( think fart propelled dwarf) as is Skullduggery Pleasant. This technique ensures they understand the text better and see accurate spelling/punctuation etc. I also agree that word games are very effective, even 10 minutes with a thesaurus/dictionary and one of the games on the OUP website can have an effect. Also the Accelerated Reading programme is effective with boys, they like the competitive element, check if your school has bought it and encourage your twins to get involved - you would be able to access their profiles from home and perhaps reward the one who is doing the most tests/scoring highest.
Good luck and I am sure your support will make a difference, btw 5 years is not long at all if the child comes from a place where educational provision is limited.

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